Open meetings, records act seminar slated

7/19/2013

By RUTH CAMPBELL

By RUTH CAMPBELL

rcampbell@gctelegram.com

The Kansas Attorney General's Office, Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government, Kansas Press Association and Kansas Newspaper Foundation are making stops around the state next week, including one Monday in Garden City, to offer training seminars on the Kansas Open Meetings and Kansas Open Records acts.

Monday's local session is planned from 9 a.m. to noon in the Endowment Room of the Beth Tedrow Student Center at Garden City Community College, 801 Campus Drive.

KPA participants will be Garden City Telegram Editor-Publisher Dena Sattler, who is the president of the KPA Board of Directors; Brian McCauley, Miami County Republic; Tomari Quinn, editor and director of audience development for the Topeka Capital-Journal; Tim Carpenter, Capital-Journal Statehouse bureau chief; Andrew Nash, Pittsburg Morning Sun managing editor; Sharon Friedlander, Colby Free Press publisher; and KPA Executive Director Doug Anstaett.

The meetings were started under former Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison in 2007, Anstaett said in an email to The Telegram.

"The training is aimed at elected officials, members of the media and citizens," Anstaett said.

"KOMA and KORA continue to be confusing statutes for our public officials to understand," Anstaett said. And the sessions allow the public and media to clarify their questions, as well.

Anstaett said he's not sure how the idea for the meetings came about, but they have followed the same format since the start with KPA, the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government and the AG's office working together from the beginning.

"We publicize (it) through KPA, news releases to the media and the AG's office's outreach, as well," he said. "We usually attract 30 to 40 for each event."

Sattler said government officials and employees are expected to participate..

"We'd also like to see other members of the community attend," Sattler said. "Open records and meetings laws aren't just in place for journalists interested in reporting on government operations. They're meant to protect the public's right to know, so any citizen can have access to the workings of their government."

Among those planning to attend such a workshop for the first time is Cathy McKinley, executive director of marketing and public relations for GCCC.

"... I am looking forward to it very much," McKinley said in an email to The Telegram. "I only know 'highlights' of the acts, and I'm very interested in knowing more about them. Of course, the college falls under these laws, and I also serve on the Finney County Economic Development Corp. board, which also adheres to KORA/KOMA. ..."

One of those attending from outside Finney County is Ralph Goodnight, Kearny County community development director and freedom of information officer. He has attended open meetings/open records act seminars, the most recent of which was in Dodge City, and found it "very informative."

"It will be a good course to hear all of those updates," he said. "That's one of the reasons I try to go regularly, just to make sure I'm not missing anything that may have changed in the law."

Goodnight's role as freedom of information officer is to serve as an advisor on the open meetings/open records acts and help the Kearny County Commission, in this case, determine what is or is not a public record.

"I would provide advice with a legal counselor on whether a request is eligible for release," he said.

Garden City Manager Matt Allen, like several other local officials, did not know about the workshop.

He cannot attend due to meeting conflicts, but said he would let city commissioners know about the opportunity.

Finney County Administrator Randy Partington said he knows about the training. He said he had not attended a training, but has gone over regulations over the years and read the different guidelines on the AG's website to make sure the county is in compliance with the open meetings and open records acts.

"I think it's very important," to have seminars like this, Partington said. "That way, the community has confidence that nothing is being decided or discussed in private."

time and place."

The workshop will last about three hours. The schedule also includes:

* 9 a.m. to noon Tuesday at Colby Community College, 1255 S. Range Ave., Colby.

* 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday at Memorial Hall, 120 S.W. 10th Ave., Topeka.

* 1 to 4 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Auditorium, 503 N. Pine St., Pittsburg.

* 9 a.m. to noon July 26 at the Paola Justice Center, 805 N. Pearl St., Paola.

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